Robert L. Hardesty, former Texas State president, dies

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
July 8, 2013

President Emeritus Hardesty died July 8, in Austin. Arrangements are pending.

Hardesty served as president of the university from 1981 until 1988.

Texas State President Denise Trauth said she was saddened to learn of Hardesty’s death.

"Bob Hardesty led Texas State through times of enormous progress for the university. His leadership literally ushered in a new era for the school," Trauth said. "He was the driving force behind the construction of the Alkek Library, and he established our most important lecture series, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Distinguished Lecture."

He also is credited with accepting what has since become the Wittliff Collections, the university’s special collections that focus on artistry depicting the American Southwest.

In founding the LBJ Distinguished Lecture Series, Hardesty fulfilled a promise made by Johnson, the university’s most prominent alumnus, to bring nationally and internationally recognized speakers to campus to lecture and to meet with students, faculty and staff.

Johnson died before that promise could be realized, but Hardesty brought it to fruition. The initial lecture was delivered in 1982 by W. Thomas Johnson, LBJ’s former press secretary and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Times. Other LBJ lecturers through the years have included former U.S. President Gerald Ford, former U.S, Rep. Barbara Jordan, former House Majority Leader Jim Wright, and dozens of other nationally recognized individuals in fields including government, education, entertainment, business, civil rights and literature.

In 2008, Hardesty, himself, participated in the LBJ Lecture. He served as co-moderator with former LBJ Library Director Harry Middleton as LBJ’s daughters, Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb, reflected on their lives in the public spotlight.

Hardesty was part of LBJ’s inner circle in Washington, D.C., and was chief speechwriter for the president.

"Bob Hardesty was a vital link to our past, having served on the staff of our most famous alumnus, President Lyndon Johnson. But he also helped guide us to our future by moving Texas State to greater levels of prestige within the higher education community" Trauth said. "Like President Johnson, whom he admired so much, Bob returned to campus frequently for special events. He remained our friend, and we will miss him dearly."

Hardesty served as president of the university during a period of unprecedented enrollment growth. When he took office, enrollment stood at approximately 16,000 students. It exceeded 20,000 by the time he left the university.

He also expanded on his predecessor’s (Lee H. Smith) initial private fundraising efforts, moved the university’s sports teams from NCAA Division II to Division I, and created the College of General Studies.

He expanded the university physical plant with projects that included the Albert B. Alkek Library and athletic facilities, increased the statewide visibility of the school and is credited with improving community relations in San Marcos.